Like many of us who supported Hillary Clinton, I am in a bit of shock that our country has chosen to elect a man so totally unqualified—morally, intellectually, and experientially—as Donald Trump. Yet the votes have been cast; and while he lost the popular vote by over a million votes, he won the electoral vote—the only one that counted. Despite early warnings of problems—the ever-growing and large, raucous Trump rallies; Russians all but indicted in hacking many of our national political organizations; the incessant drumbeat of Wikileaks’ releases of meaningless political insider emails; and a cowering FBI Director prematurely revealing the discovery of a “new trove of emails” ten days before the election that turned out to be mostly copies of already analyzed material—most of us were lulled by the pundits and pollsters who showed that Hillary would most certainly win, possibly by a landslide. Even the exit polls, run by the same media and pollsters, all but confirmed the certainty of Hillary’s success.
And then the votes actually started to be counted. The shock to more than half of us hit like a bomb; euphoria to the rest began to set in. Apparently, change, at whatever cost, driven by anger and hatred of those often left out of the political equations of the past, overpowered reason, deliberation and thoughtful governance proposed by Hillary.
What now? What should we do, those of us who believe in an America of tolerance, of justice for all, of a defender of the rights and liberty of all individuals, of providing opportunities for all while protecting the least fortunate, of immigrants—welcoming the poor, the starving, the destitute of the world, and of leadership—showing the way for the rest of the world in facing the challenges of terrorism, global climate change, health pandemics and global population explosion?
President Elect Trump gives us only a few hints of what is to come. His stated priorities two days after the election are (1) immigration (“Build that wall! Build that wall!); (2) repeal of Obamacare (“Repeal and replace!”); and (3) jobs (“serious, serious jobs”) among “many other priorities.” These other priorities, presumably, as stated at various times during his campaign, would be repeal of all trade deals (“NAFTA, the worst trade agreement ever”); reversal of all Executive Orders issued by President Obama (“Gone! The first day I’m in office. Gone!”); unilateral abrogation of the Iran Nuclear Deal (“The worst deal ever made!)”; putting forward an ultra-conservative candidate for the Scalia Supreme Court vacancy—”I would strongly consider that (appointing justices to overturn the same-sex marriage decision)” and many more.
In February of this year, just as the Presidential Primaries were getting underway in earnest, I looked at the chilling possibilities of a Trump campaign that was taking on the appearance and rhetoric of a campaign from almost a century back—that of Adolf Hitler. In looking at Hitler’s famous Mien Kampf, it would appear that Trump had taken a page or two from Hitler’s repertoire: using racism and xenophobia to excite his followers; proposing mass roundups and deportations to solve our economic and security problems; promising to “make America great again” (substitute Germany for America!); blaming all of our economic and social problems on Mexicans, followed by the Chinese and then the Muslims; and then suggesting Muslims be singled out and followed on “special” databases and have special IDs (Muslim crescent moons sewed on their jackets?). He became an instant hit of Amercian neo-nazis and even David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan. Still early in the campaign season I thought (like many others) that Trump would ultimately fail and reason would prevail.
Not so. While much of this heinous behavior and his proposals were disavowed by the majority of the Republican leadership, Trump one by one knocked out his Republican rivals and emerged as his party’s standard bearer to the chagrin of many in the Republican Party. The campaign against Hillary Clinton was even worse in terms of heightened rhetoric and negative behavior. A few “highlights”:
– When scolded on national TV for being intolerant by a Muslim family grieving for their son lost in combat, he viciously attacked them for being “unpatriotic.”
– He applauded the hacking of the DNC and other Democratic officials, first urging that Russia hackers find “Hillary’s lost emails,” and then denying that the Russians, despite evidence to the contrary, were even behind the hacks—”It could be anyone; a 300-pound man from his bed in San Francisco.”
– When Wikileaks began a daily release of irrelevant hacked emails from Clinton’s campaign, he openly applauded and reveled in the political intrigue and gossip that was revealed—Chinese water torture, drop by drop.
– When questioning Hillary’s character to be President during the national debate (“She’s a liar!”), she responded that he verbally abused his Miss Universe contestants, noting one he called “Miss Piggy” whose career he tried to ruin for gaining weight after winning. “She was a terrible contestant!”
– When caught on tape disparaging women, using the crudest of terms (“I can do anything I want. Kiss them! Grab them by the pu….!”), he said it was just “locker room talk.” When a dozen women came forward and described being sexually attacked by him in various venues and at various times, he denied it and attacked them (“They’re liars! They’re all liars! I’m going to sue them!”)
– He promised to appoint a special prosecutor to pursue criminal charges against Clinton, even though the FBI and DOJ determined there was no evidence of criminal behavior related to her infamous email server and its use. He led the chants at his raucous rallies: “Lock Her Up! Lock Her Up!”
Given Trump’s success, historical parallels with Hitler and the history of the Third Reich are even scarier now. Like Trump, Hitler came to power when Germany’s legislative branch (the Reichstag) was so ineffective, its work was referred to by its citizens as “cattle trading” (Kuhhandel).1 Our own ineffectual Congress has suffered historically low approval ratings, hovering in the mid-teens for the past several years. “Cattle trading” would be tame by comparison to what most citizens think of how our legislative branch works regardless of party. Hitler too was intrigued with strong leaders, initially fawning over Stalin and Mussolini. Trump seemed more than pleased during the campaign to receive compliments from his erstwhile friend Vladimir Putin, saying he liked “strong leaders,” then adding North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to this strange mix. Like Hitler, Trump considers himself an “expert” in foreign affairs, questioning our country’s participation in NATO and other strategic allegiances while openly courting rapprochement with Putin (“Wouldn’t it be great if we got along with the Russians?”). Trump’s distain for the Iranian Nuclear Agreement, the Global Climate Change Agreement, complex trade agreements (NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement), and his supreme confidence he would control China only add to the strange mix of foreign policy changes he proposes to address. As in the case of Hitler, professional politicians, analysts, and pundits have severely underestimated Trump’s political skills and ability to overcome his political opponents. While his success at the polls may say more about our electorate than about Trump, he was successful in recognizing and then tapping into a heretofore group of voters who felt betrayed and angered by the system—”The system is rigged” was his closing refrain, followed by “Only I can fix it!.” Now he is positioned to do exactly that.
Given the paucity of details in the campaign, what might we expect from a Trump Presidency? Some priorities are emerging:
- Immigration—As President, Trump will have almost unlimited power in deciding how to deal with illegal immigration simply by playing the “national security” card. His approach during the campaign has hardly been nuanced, and he can take almost immediate steps to deport illegal aliens at an accelerated pace. He has already announced his focus on the “2-3 million bad hombres” that he will target. Who will make the determination as to who is a “bad hombre” is open to question. The idea of rounding up 2-3 million people for mass deportation, regardless of their “threat” to our society is mind numbing to say the least. There is likely little we can do as citizens or through our Congress or Courts to stop it. Similarly, his proposal to stopping the migration of Muslims from Syria or other parts of the world without “severe vetting” likely cannot be prevented. If he delivers as expected, the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty—Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…— may just as well be confined to the dust heaps of history. The infamous wall on our southern border will likely be less than promised or some have imagined, given the reality of the cost and the nature of the 2,000-mile border. Nonetheless Trump will surely make sure some semblance of his wall is built, and he will look at taxing Mexico, possibly by seizing remittance payments to pay for it.
- The Affordable Care Act—ACA, Obamacare—”We will repeal and replace!”—This has been at the heart of the GOP efforts since its passage six years ago. Now that they are in a position to follow through, reality is finally catching up with the rhetoric. ACA is not the evil socialist plot it has been branded but in fact has some merit and political/social good to it. Trump and the GOP leadership have already begun to back-peddle from their long-standing positions and are now talking about keeping some provisions (previous medical conditions guarantees and coverage for young adults until they are 25) and looking at some form of mandatory payment (anyone hear taxes?). Obama recently welcomed improvements to ACA and, perhaps at long last, some semblance of a safety net of health care can be hammered out in the new Congress. Hocus pocus and a “new” ACA properly blessed by Trump and his GOP Congress will emerge.
- New Supreme Court—We will be lucky if Trump’s nominee to replace Antonin Scalia is as intelligent and as deliberative as the deceased justice. That seems unlikely, as the first litmus test to be applied will be someone already committed to a pro-life, anti-abortion position and one committed to overthrowing Roe v. Wade. The Democrats in the Senate can filibuster (unless the Republicans decide to change the rules) and slow down the process, but it will be difficult to stop the conservative tilt of the Supreme Court with whoever Trump appoints.
- Global Climate Change (GCC)—”Climate Change is a hoax” was a refrain often heard on Trump’s campaign trail. While it may be more difficult than Trump initially understood, given the agreement encompassing such key Climate Change partners as China and India, not to mention the political fallout from hundreds of millions of supporters around the world, he can certainly take steps to retract federal rules and regulations enacted under Obama’s Administration and look to be more “business” friendly to the oil, gas, and coal industries. The appointment of early advisors to his transition team, including Myron Ebel (who heads the chair of the Cooler Heads Coalition group which strongly questions the scientific merit of human-induced global climate change) does not harbor well for the U.S.’s continuing in any positive leadership role in reversing GCC. Mother Nature, unfortunately, does not play politics, and our world’s global future will inevitably worsen unless or until this particular political pendulum can be reversed.
- Iran Nuclear Deal—While an easy target of criticism by Trump and the GOP leadership, it is hard to see how unilateral action by the U.S. to abrogate an agreement which includes some of our closest allies, as well as Russia, will be so quickly or so easily dismissed. At this point Iran would love to be freed of its obligations to restrict its development of a nuclear weapon, get rid of those onerous IAEA inspectors on their soil, and charge forth having recovered billions now fueling their formerly ailing economy. Hopefully, more thoughtful and intelligent incoming leadership will take a more rational approach than that simply fueled by campaign hyperbole and rhetoric.
- NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) —Despite all the bluster about the unfairness of NAFTA and trade deals in general, it’s hard to imagine Trump’s actually moving to unilaterally take the U.S. out of a trade deal that has benefited the country to such an extent and which provides jobs and trade to all three nation members of the agreement. Not mentioned in all the rhetoric is the importance of environmental and natural resource issues handled between the three nations through the trilateral Commission on Environmental Cooperation, the North American Development Bank, and the Border Environmental Cooperative Commission. Millions of dollars are invested annually through these NAFTA-based organizations to deal with environmental issues critical to the partner nations. As to TPP, it appears dead on arrival (of the new Administration). All the pity, as despite all the political posturing and rhetoric, it now appears that due to lack of a good trade policy (good, not perfect), China will assume the upper hand in directing trade in the Pacific rim nations for decades to come.
- Dodd-Frank Market reform—As bad as it was, it was at least an attempt to control the greed and avarice of Wall Street. Expect to be back to the “good old days” of the wild, wild west in Manhattan. Wells Fargo and others are uttering sighs of relief and already counting their bonuses.
As for those lines in the sand, where do we draw the lines to stop from going down a path most of us would consider as un-American, immoral, and outright repugnant (the same lines the Germans should have fought for some 80 years ago)?
National security —we are at our most vulnerable when we take political action out of anger or fear. Trump has stoked the flames of fear and anger from internal sources (illegal immigrants) and external sources (Muslim terrorists). He has promised to “round up” millions of illegal aliens for mass deportation. That cannot be done without greatly enlarging our Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), and/or Homeland Security enforcement agencies—likely by billions of dollars and thousands of personnel. At what point do we begin to view any or all of these as a national police force? Where do we draw the line between local law enforcement and national law enforcement when it concerns our rights as citizens under the law? How many more private prisons will we have to create in order to hold all of those millions of deportees? Will we begin the construction of internment camps? Those of us who live on the border know all to well the cold stare of the Border Patrolman at our ubiquitous internal check points asking, “US Citizen?” Hitler had the Gestapo; Russia the KGB; we cannot go down that path just to be “secure.”
- Civil liberties—Any abridgment of anyone’s civil rights (Muslim, Gay, Trans, Black) is as clear a line in the sand as we can draw. Unfortunately, as with illegal immigrants the line begins to be blurred when the issue of “security” is raised. Any abrogation of an individual’s rights due to race, sex or religion cannot be tolerated. We have already seen a 67% increase in hate violence against Muslims in just the last two months. We must all unite against such violence. We are a nation of tolerance.
- Persecution of One’s Political Enemies—Trump has already opened the door to a possible indictment of Hillary Clinton for criminal acts related to her use of a personal server for emails. I use the word “persecution” purposely, as any prosecution of the former Democratic nominee for President could only be characterized as persecution should Trump move to proceed with criminal charges against her and despite the opinions of an independent FBI and the current Attorney General to the contrary.
For those of us who hold no power but that of ordinary citizens we can only ask—How do we hold the lines to stand for the values and rights we hold dear? I do not have any magic formula or answer to that question. I do have a few thoughts:
- Stand up and be heard. Either in local meetings, through the local newspaper or TV, through letters to the editor or to your mayor or to your Congressman/ Congresswoman. Do not be silent—in silence you are giving ascent. If it is in your nature, be prepared to demonstrate and join with others with similar values and views. Be seen for otherwise you are invisible and not counted.
- Support and elect people who represent not just your values but the true core values of our nation—this is not about Republicans or Democrats. This is about Americans! Start at the local level and build from there. Our national leaders are lost. We must guide them from the base, not wait for them to tell us what the solutions are to the problems we know better than they. If they fail us, find better more daring leaders unafraid to take on the powers that be.
- Remove, vote out, or impeach those who dare to cross the lines we have drawn. We are a nation of laws. Use them and root out the corrupt, criminal, and unethical regardless of their positions or power.
- Educate yourself on the issues and then educate those around you. Help grow the young leaders that will ultimately take us forward.
Finally, going back to the sixties where many of us learned some of our core political values, Keep the Faith!—Paul Maxwell
1 The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany, William L. Shirer, Simon and Shuster, 1960, US p.134
This document was edited by Carol Feickert, CeeJay Publications, Denver, Colorado. Contact [email protected]